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by Leila Chatti

What kind of world will we leave
__________for our mothers? My mother

calls me, weeping. I am
__________far and the country she gave

me could kill me. Or
__________that’s what she’s saying, her voice

clumsy with tears—my mother
__________who never cries, and so

for this, too, apologizes. Sometimes, more
__________often, I want to mother

my mother. I’ve begun to
__________wonder what it is like for her

to have four hearts
__________outside her body, buried

in brown and fragile skin. I never wanted this
__________for my children, my mother sobs

from a Michigan town
__________where once men crowded in white

cloaks, their sons still
__________there lingering at drug stores and gas pumps

with steely guns and colder eyes.
__________What do you tell a mother

you love too much
__________to lie to? My mother

named me Leila because it was a song
__________white men played on air guitars, which meant,

she’d hoped, they couldn’t hate me. I’m so scared now
__________for Rachid, even with his blonde hair

My mother thought her blood
__________might protect us in this country

from this country, her fair genes and castaside
__________Catholic god. Thinks now

she failed us as children because she only ever told us
__________stories of monsters

we wouldn’t recognize. Mother,
__________I know these men

could be your brothers
__________and do not blame you. She weeps.

I am far and the country
__________monstrous. What kind of world

do we mother, knowing
__________what it is, what it’s capable of?

The long night stretches
__________between her window and mine.

As if comforting a child, I say the word
__________kind—as in, the world is still

kinder than we think. I think
__________I believe it. Mom I say

stop cryingno one’s leaving this world
__________to anyone yet.

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